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's takedown of dan quayle in 1988. >> jack kennedy was a friend of mine. senator, you're no jack kennedy. >> reporter: but beware that deer in the head lights moment when a candidate forgets he's expected to be human. >> governor, if kitty dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer? >> no, i don't, bernard. >> i feel sorry for these candidates because there's a bunch of people sitting around a room right now telling them to do ten impossible things and then at the end saying be yourself. >> reporter: and if you lose the first round you can recover at the next match with a well executed zinger. >> i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. >> reporter: even a strong debate performance by john kerry wasn't enough to defeat george w. bush, but debates matter because it's the first chance to size up the candidates in unscripted moments one-on-one. brian? >> andrea mitchell, who by the way will be our fact checker during our live coverage of the debate wednesday night here on nbc. andrea, thanks. >>>
a cool handsome jack kennedy buried the nervous vice president richard nixon who turned down makeup and sweated uncontrollably. and nixon's image as a loser was driven home by questions like this. >> president eisenhower's asked to give one example of a major idea of yours that he adopted. his reply was, and i'm quoting, if you give me a week, i might think of one, i don't remember. >> i would suggest that if you know the president, that was probably a facetious remark. president president has asked for my advice. i have given it. sometimes my advice has been taken. sometimes it has not. chris: the second time a debate turned things around was ronald reagan's direct appeal to voters in his first and only faceoff with president jimmy carter. >> are you better off than you were four years ago? is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? do you feel that our security is as safe? that we're as strong as we were four years ago? chris: after that, the next day's "new york times" told the story of how critical that became. the are you better off ques
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